You are scrolling through your Instagram profile and let out a big, overwhelmed sigh. The kind of sigh, that alerts your hubby, who immediately jumps to your side ready to give a big, comforting hug. Or you might sit down to create visuals in Canva for your latest blog post and feel intimidated by the big whiteness of the empty artboard. “Please, don’t stare at me like this, you cruel emptiness!” – you beg your MacBook desperately but it’s just staring back in calm serenity.
Then you hire a graphic designer to create all your social media, blog and Facebook Ad graphics for a new campaign and you have a minor heart attack when your receive the first invoice from her… She didn’t overcharge you, you just asked for two hundred and fifty three rounds of revisions…
If these sound at least a little bit like you, then you must invest time and money into creating design templates for your brand.
Well, actually every business should have a set of design templates for their brand.
IS IT ABOUT COOKIE CUTTING?
“OK. But what are these design templates? They sound too much like cookie cutting and I want my business to be uber-super-unique” – you say.
Don’t worry, your brand won’t look like those new townhouses developers build nowadays – equally boring, blocky piles of brick, inspired by a Vogon’s imagination. No, you won’t look like all the others if you use templates correctly – and you use the correct templates – but you’ll be able to create your graphics quicker and have a unified result. When scrolling through your Pinterest boards, you’ll notice your blog pins right away and so will your followers. Templates, when used right can save tremendous amount of time and help building a consistent visual identity.
WHAT ARE THESE DESIGN TEMPLATES?
I call “design template” every file (Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) where you set up the basic design (layout, fonts, textures, colors, headers, document covers) only once and then replace parts, like text and background photo, to create new and new graphics for your business over and over again.
These files are especially good for visuals that you have to create often, but you don’t have to rediscover a totally new style. In fact, when we use templates, the similarity we got from these files is an advantage, because our followers were more likely recognize our brand.
WHAT CAN YOU USE TEMPLATES FOR?
Design templates are perfect for:
- Social media graphics (posts, headers, profile photos) – By the way, here’s an article of the latest social media graphic sizes
- Blog post graphics
- Website images, for example the Facebook preview of each of your pages
- Images for your email newsletter
- Mood boards and brand boards – especially for graphic designers who create these often for their clients
- Printed marketing tools, like flyers, booklets and post cards
- Landing pages
- Sales pages
- Content upgrades: Documents, e-books or workbooks
- CV, resume and motivation letter templates
And so much more. Basic rule of thumb: if you notice that you create a certain type of graphic composition for your business over and over again, it’s time to make a template for it.
BIGGEST ADVANTAGES OF DESIGN TEMPLATES
1. Save time
The first and most important advantage is that it saves you time. No matter if you outsource your design tasks or you do it yourself, if you have templates for the task you’ll finish it in a blink.
2. Save money
You save money. Because your time is money… You see the correlation? And not to mention, you won’t need to ask for constant modifications from your designer, because with templates, her job will be pretty straightforward… I even have to admit – as a graphic designer myself – that you won’t even need a designer for these tasks. Anyone with basic Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or Canva knowledge will be able to help you – a student, or your VA, or your best friend who has some time to help out and return a favor.
3. Increase productivity
You won’t need to constantly reinvent how you present your content. You won’t get the empty white artboard panic attack, that feeling of “Oh gosh, my brain is empty… just tell me what to do because I can’t even decide where to place the first pixel any more…” There won’t be any more place for those bad thoughts, because you’ll always know where to start.
4. Build consistency
You’ll build consistency in today’s highly contaminated online space. Have you ever run into those old stile websites with a zillion ads flashing all over the place? Now, that’s what many of us feels on social media today. For my part, this is why I spend less and less time on Facebook. The visual chaos there overwhelms me instead of making me feel relaxed and inspired. What I value are consistent brands, that I recognize instantly. We are all drawn to these brands because we feel we can trust them.
CHALLENGES WITH DESIGN TEMPLATES AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM
1. Getting stuck in the “Perfectionist Loop”
As with everything you develop for your business, it’s very easy to procrastinate launching your templates because you want them to be perfect first. Let me assure you: It will NEVER be perfect.
My advice: instead of procrastinating because you are not fully satisfied, choose a due date and try you best to create templates that cover your needs and fit into your brand. Then, after a few month, look at these templates again – with a fresh eye and all the experience you had from feedback, analytics and other data – and improve the templates a bit. Not too much that they look completely different and nobody will be able to identify your brand when seeing them. Small, data-backed, educated changes are what you must aim.
2. Reinventing your templates over and over again
As I said before, don’t redo your design templates over and over again for achieving a completely different look. If you look at big brands you’ll notice that their identity design only changed slightly over the years. IKEA was and will always be about functional, simple and inviting design. NIKE will always emphasize action, boldness and energy. Apple kept it’s clean, no-nonsense design and likely never change to a vintage looking website. So what to do when you feel that you want to erase out everything and redo your design templates completely from scratch?
My advice: Define your core values and aesthetics first and stick to that. I know it’s hard, especially for us slightly ADHD creatives who constantly burst with ideas. But believe me, no one will recognize your brand if you keep changing from vintage to grungy style, then to something flat and modern, then back to vintage. If you start the design process mindfully, with your core purpose and values, you’ll only need to make small improvements over the years and you’ll look more authentic too.
3. Not assigning enough time to build templates for your business
It’s very tempting at first to create templates on the go. For example you might make a design template for your blog post visuals while working on your next post. Then a week later, when you schedule all your Instagram posts, you create a few templates for that. Half a year later, you might add a PDF template for your workbooks. Well, don’t be surprised if they won’t fit together in style.
My advice: Either set aside a week where you create all your design templates or if you can afford it, hire a designer. She’ll only have to work on it once ant then you or your assistant will be able to use the templates with minimal knowledge. But before sitting down to the drawing table, or meeting with the designer, define what you really need. Do you only post on Instagram so you won’t ever care about Facebook and Twitter? Do you often make PDF freebies for your readers but you hardly ever print flyers to promote your business? Look back and reflect on those repeating design tasks that you’d like to make faster and easier in the future and make a list with all required items. Create the templates in one batch to achieve a consistent style.
4. Not organizing your design templates well
You created your super awesome templates and even used them for 4 blog posts and a month worth of Instagram posts – you rock girl! You scheduled all of these ahead of time so that you can focus on an important and super exciting client project. Then, a month later, you come back to blog creation mode but when looking for the design templates from last time you can’t find any of them… Nada. Not one file.
Organizing our files nicely and in an easy to follow, intuitive way sound like a no brainer but often we don’t spend the time to actually do it. And I understand you. I have a horrendous Downloads folder that fills up regularly and I can easily spend 30 minutes there looking for something I downloaded 2 weeks ago. Not very effective, ey?
My advice: Think about file structure as the branches of a tree. Every time you get to a fork, you should have two or more obvious choices that takes you deeper in a file category.
You can see here that at every stages of this file structure it’s pretty obvious what choice I should make if I’m looking for a specific design template file. You can use this same structure everywhere on your computer.
WHERE TO FIND DESIGN TEMPLATES
Last but not least, you might ask “Now that I’m totally fired up to start using design templates, where can I find some good examples?”
You’re at the right place my friend, ’cause I’ve just created a free resource guide with my favorite 5 websites for high quality design templates – and other graphic assets. The best: many of these tools are free or incredibly cheap.